April 19, 2013

Trinamool in chit fund muddle over Saradha links

By Saibal Sen, TNN | Apr 19, 2013, 01.31 AM IST

KOLKATA: The chit-fund mess threatens to blow up in the face of Trinamool Congress even as it battles public outrage over the murder of a police officer in Garden Reach and the vandalism of Presidency University. Four FIRs have been filed against Sudipta Sen, chairman and MD of theSaradha Group, which proudly flauntedTrinamoolRajyaSabha MP KunalGhosh as its Group Media CEO.

Ghosh couldn't be reached over phone and Sen has been missing ever since Saradha Printing and Publishing Pvt Ltd issued closure notices on its newspapers and infotainment channels (including Tara Muzik, Tara News, Channel 10, Bengal Post, Seven Sisters Post and Bengali daily Sakalbela), rendering over a thousand jobless on the eve of Poila Boisakh.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Thursday that all efforts are on to arrest Sen. "He is somewhere in north India," Mamata said at Writers' Buildings, sparking speculation that he may have already been detained. Two of the FIRs against Sen were filed in Kolkata and one each in Agartala and Guwahati. There is also a court complaint against him by advertising firm Selvel.

Trinamool general secretary Mukul Roy is desperately trying to find private financiers for the closed Saradha Group media businesses. Failure is not an option for Roy because the chit fund row may do more damage to Trinamool than the outrage over the Presidency vandalism that has pushed the party on the back foot. The party is also in the spotlight because all the Saradha Group news channels and dailies had a distinct pro-Trinamool stand.

Media was only a part of Sen's flourishing empire, some of them allegedly relating to chit funds and multi-level marketing involving thousands of marketing agents and lakhs of depositors. The agents, facing heat back home, have been trooping to Trinamool Bhawan. Nearly 200 of them landed up announced on Wednesday evening, leaving party leaders scrambling. After a noisy demonstration, a few of them were allowed to meet Roy and industries minister Partha Chatterjee. With the company failing to meet its promised returns, the number of FIRs can shoot through the roof.

The Trinamool is rattled — it cannot afford another public outcry less than four days before Parliament resumes. It has launched a desperate firefight. Tara's general manager ( finance) Indrajit Roy told TOI from Delhi, "The plans to resurrect the (closed) companies are being guided by the chief minister and MP Mukul Roy. The problem is that Sudipta Sen cannot be reached. Unless he signs on the dotted line, nothing can happen."

There was a buzz all day that police in Dehradun and Salt Lake have taken action against Sen and a senior vice-president of the group but this could not be confirmed. Uttarakhand DGP Satyavrat Bansal told TOI, "I confirm that no one by the name of Sudipta Sen has been arrested or detained in Dehradun or elsewhere in the state." There were reports that a complaint had been filed against Ghosh, too, but Bidhannagar police commissioner Rajeev Kumar denied this.

The employees of Tara TV Network got a mail on April 15 that their services had been terminated. The employees of Tara, a 13-year-old company, decided to go public with their protests. There was no further intimation from the management but for Ghosh's sporadic social media posts, through which he informed about his resignation from the group and the takeover of Channel 10 by Rice Group (an education and infotech company). Another of his posts said that Sakalbela, too, will have a new buyer but details were not available. It is widely believed a similar proposition is being worked out for Tara as well. For Bengal Post, though, there is no such information.

The out-of-job Bengal Post employees are likely to file a police complaint on Friday against their employer for non-payment of provident fund and income-tax dues.

Sen has sent an undated three-page letter to the marketing members and leaders of SaradhaRealty India Ltd blaming "employees of the media house". "The biggest blunder I have done is to enter the media business where the maximum fund has been diverted to run media houses," says Sen in the letter, adding that he had a "different vision for the establishment of media" and to be "guaranteed protector for the marketing members". "During the last five years, except for a few marketing leaders, no one cautioned me against entering the media house. When I tried to shut down the media houses, the employees of the media houses started to hackle (sic) me like anything. They have damaged the reputation of the company, my personal reputation, my social prestige etc. They have not shown any sympathetic attitude towards the core management though from the beginning they were given solid pay package and all other logistic facilities," he writes.

Sen also blames a new software system for the financial mess, saying it allowed anyone with the company user ID to print receipts from anywhere.

Chit-fund ties may cost Trinamool Congress dear

By Saugata Roy, TNN | Apr 19, 2013, 01.12 AM IST

KOLKATA: The honeymoon is over. Trinamool Congress is bracing for a bruising payback for its bonhomie with chit-fund companies.

With thousands of small investors - especially in semi-urban and rural areas - heading for doom, the Mamata Banerjee  government faces perhaps its gravest crisis ever.

For seven years, chit fund companies thrived in Bengal, mopping up thousands of crores as short-term deposits from people expecting unbelievable returns.

The bubble is about to burst bringing back memories of the Sanchayita chit fund crisis of 1980 in which about a lakh depositors lost Rs 120 crore.

The tell-tale signs are similar. About 1,200 employees of the Saradha Group media outfits - Bengal Post, Sakalbela, Azad Hind, Tara News, Tara Muzik and Tara Bangla - are out of job. And chit fund agents, on the run from angry depositors, are mobbing senior Trinamool leaders to bail them out.

The journey that began in 2011 with Saradha Group sponsoring dozens of motorcycles and ambulances that chief minister Mamata Banerjee flagged off in Jangalmahal has come a full circle.

Journalists rendered jobless by the closure of Saradha media businesses have appealed to the government for help. "In the last three years, we got the Form 16 only once. Our salaries are pending for over three months," a former Bengal Post employee said.

Saradha Group agents also knocked the doors of Trinamool leaders - Mukul Roy and Partha Chatterjee - complaining that they had to flee home because the company couldn't repay depositors.

Sensing the public mood, industries minister Partha Chatterjee said on Thursday: "Chit fund managers are safe as long as they protect the interests of the agents and the depositors." Chatterjee asked the journalists to give their problems in writing so that the government can intervene and chief minister said all efforts are on to arrest Saradha CMD Sudipta Sen.

The assurance may be too little, too late for the ruling party that milked these media houses to garner public support. All these channels and newspapers took a pro-Trinamool stand to get government advertisements. The government subscribed many of these pro-poribartan newspapers for state public libraries. Chit fund companies also reciprocated by bailing out ruling party leaders in difficult times. For instance, they helped a senior minister when he ran out of funds to felicitate the Brazilian Masters in an exhibition football match in December 2012.

The meltdown started after Trinamool MP Somen Mitra wrote to the corporate affairs ministry about the mushrooming of chit fund firms that he called "unprincipled companies". "It was the first letter. I wrote to the Sebi chairman later. I do not remember the dates," Mitra told TOI on Thursday. The Centre chose to go slow, possibly out of political considerations because Trinamool was then the biggest ally of the Congress in UPA-II.

Chit fund firms took advantage of this political situation to expand their business. Some diversified into several sectors from real estate to tourism. For instance, Saradha Group added at least 11 verticals, including media retail, realty, construction, exports, cement, hospitality, agro, publication, financial management, travel and education.

The Group got a boost after it inducted Trinamool MP Kunal Ghosh as Group Media CEO. Ghosh has since quit Saradha and left an alarming parting note on the social media: "We are passing through difficult times. Enemies have joined hands. Sometimes I feel they are out to kill me...I will fight to the last. But if something happens to me, I have left behind the names with a person I know". He was unavailable for comment.

A section of the Saradha Group, who felt cheated, pointed fingers at CPM state secretariat member Rabin Deb with whom Sudipta Sen was in touch before making forays in the media.

"Sen had come to us like many others because the Left Front was in power then. I didn't assure him anything. In fact, the media expansion was done much later. I met some of the employees over their grievances. That's all. Ask those who were hand-in-glove with the chit fund owners and are now trying to pass the blame on me," the CPM leader said.

April 18, 2013

CPI(M) seeks Governor's intervention

KOLKATA: Claiming that there were nearly 1500 incidents of attack on Marxists following the heckling of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Delhi, the CPI(M) today sought the intervention of Governor M K Narayanan.

"We have written to the governor seeking his intervention into the incidents of armed attacks, arson, loot and implication of CPI(M) workers in false cases," CPI(M) politburo member Suryakanta Mishra said.

"A number of our party offices have been ransacked, burnt down and several of our workers injured," Mishra, the Leader of the Opposition, said.

Mishra said that the letter also drew attention to the 'undemocratic and inhuman face' of the state government explicit in the arrest of former ministers without reason and chaining of an arrested SFI member Santosh Sahani to his hospital bed in Siliguri.

To a question, the CPI(M) leader asked why the chief minister did not follow the Delhi police instructions while entering Yojna Bhavan on April nine.

"There are many questions about this. We are not going into this. But its true that we can't shirk our responsibility. We have already condemned the incident which was undesirable," he said.

CPI(M) seeks Governor's intervention | Business Standard

Bengal govt in dilemma to tackle chit fund companies

KOLKATA: After around 1,200 scribes lost their jobs as chit fund-funded media group Saradha Group shut all its media outfits (a mix of news dailies and TV channels), West Bengal government is now in a dilemma of whether to crack the whip on the group and other such chit fund companies.

While there is a buzz that an arrest order has been issued in the name of Sudipta Sen, CMD of Saradha group, TMC MP Sougata Roy said state government cannot do enough in these issues.

"We don't have much to do in this issue. It is the duty of Sebi, RBI and ministry of corporate affairs to crack a whip on these companies and stop them,” he said.

Roy suggested enough laws are in place and the regulators should jointly address this issue rather than expecting the state to do everything.

In 2010, when national media environment was still reeling under recessionary tendencies, the West Bengal media landscape saw a sudden boom. A hitherto unknown name in media circles, Saradha Group, stepped into the fray.The company invigorated the sleepy media market in West Bengal by launching new media entities - Channel 10 (now Rice group), Bengal Post, Sakalbela, Azad Hind, Prabhat Varta, Parama and the Seven Sisters Post.

A large number of Bengali channels in the state have their roots in chit funds. The regulatory clampdown on these funds has taken a toll on these media operations.

State industries minister Partha Chatterjee said that while efforts are on to nab the culprits, but after a point state can not do much about it.

“We will look into such companies with respect to the laws of Sebi and RBI. If irregularitries are detected we will take action but we can not go on an arrest spree in a hurry,” he added.

On arrest of absconding Sen, Chatterjee said it is under consideration but no such order has been passed so far.

Sebi has begun a clampdown on collective investment schemes. In May 2012, it had issued an order against a Kolkata-based company, directing it not to raise money from the public. In December 2012, it issued another order against the company, stating its intention to prosecute the firm for continuing to raise deposits. On April 10, Sebi issued another order, cautioning investors against another instrument, potato bonds, floated by a West Bengal-based company.

Companies such as the Saradha Group have been raising money from the public as advances. According to Companies (Acceptance of Deposits) Rules, 1975, though companies can raise deposits as advances, the repayment period has to be six-36 months.

According to an RBI official, most multi-level marketing companies have been resorting to this clause to raise funds from the public. Not many, however, stick to the repayment timeline clause, he adds.

"Also, such companies prefer to drag the matter to court so that they can continue raising funds until a judgment is arrived at," the official said.

April 16, 2013

‘Being an opportunist party, the Trinamul can align with anyone’ : CPI(M) general-secretary Prakash Karat

Created 14 Apr 2013 - 00:00, The Asian Age 

CPI(M) general-secretary Prakash Karat

What do you have to say about the recent outburst of political violence in West Bengal?

There has been sustained violence against the CPI(M) and the Left Front in West Bengal ever since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The Trinamul Congress is responsible for the attacks on the CPI(M) and Left cadres and supporters in an effort to suppress strong Left base in the state.

This attack intensified after the Assembly elections in May 2011. Since the Trinamul Congress government came to power, 96 cadres and supporters of the CPI(M) and the Left have been killed. The recent incident at a demonstration outside the Planning Commission office has been used to unleash another bout of organised attack on the offices and leaders of the Left Front.

What do you have to say about the attack by the SFI and CPI(M) activists on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the state finance minister Amit Mitra outside the Planning Commission? Do you condemn it? Do you think it is a good precedence?

There was no attack against the chief minister. There was a protest organised against the attitude of the state government regarding the custodial death of SFI leader Sudipto Gupta. Unfortunately, in the course of that demonstration, there was an incident involving Mr Mitra. We have condemned it. On earlier occasions, too, there have been such acts against various political leaders and ministers and we have always disapproved and condemned them.

Ms Banerjee has said that majority of those who got killed in West Bengal were Trinamul functionaries?

She is used to making such wild charges. Even on this occasion, she has said that there was an attempt to kill her. This is totally baseless.

What do you think about the way the West Bengal government is handling the murder case of SFI leader Sudipto Gupta?

A 23-year-old student died in police custody. Ms Banerjee declared that it is a petty matter. Why is the West Bengal government not ordering a judicial enquiry into the incident? Whether death happened due to killing or accident, let the truth come out.

West Bengal has a history of political violence. The Left dominated the state for more than three decades. There is a perception that the Left spearheaded violence and that it is responsible for creating a culture of political violence in the state?

This is a hackneyed charge against the Left. The political violence in West Bengal has been primarily an effort of the state machinery and the ruling classes and landlords, who unleashed violence against the Communist and the Left movements in the 1950s and 60s to suppress them. Even when the Left Front government was in office, violence was directed against the working class and peasant movements. The fact is that such violence existed before the Left Front government assumed office and is there even after the Left Front government ceased to be in office. The Trinamul Congress represents a reactionary force which is out to suppress democratic rights and give the Opposition no quarter.

What is your stand on the situation in Kerala, where one of your party leaders M.M. Mani had publicly claimed the party’s involvement in political murders? Even though you had said that an internal enquiry into the murder of T.P. Chandrasekharan was in the process, nothing has come out yet. Have you given clean chit to your partymen in this case?

As far as the speech by M.M. Mani is concerned, our party took action against him. The judiciary gave its verdict in all those cases. However, the UDF government in Kerala has reopened the cases and filed chargesheet against Mani, which is totally unwarranted. In the Chandrasekharan murder case, our party conducted an enquiry, but the matter is in the court. We are confident that the party’s leaders in Kozhikode district who are implicated in this case will be found innocent.

What do you think about Ms Banerjee’s stalemate with the state Election Commission over panchayat polls? Do you think the Trinamul Congress is deliberately delaying the elections?

We want the panchayat elections to be held on time. The state government is wilfully disregarding the recommendations of the state Election Commission about the manner in which the panchayat polls are to be conducted. The Trinamul wants to ride roughshod and hold elections in a manner in which the Opposition parties are not able to participate in a free and fair poll. That is why it is opposing the sensible proposals of the Election Commission.

Do you see any possibility of Ms Banerjee striking an alliance with the Congress ahead of or after the general elections?

Being an opportunist party, the Trinamul Congress can go with anyone. It should not be forgotten that the Trinamul was part of the BJP-led alliance government where Ms Banerjee was a minister. She has alternated between alliances with the BJP and the Congress. The only constant position she has is against the CPI(M) and the Left.

Do you see any possibility of your party striking an alliance with the UPA?

Our party has already decided to oppose both the Congress and the BJP. We, as the Left, will take a united stand. We would like a non-Congress secular government in office.

Why is the Left not taking a lead this time to form a Third Front?

Our efforts are to create an alternative based on alternative policies. This can come about only through movements and struggles jointly by parties and organisations who are committed to an alternative set of policies. The third front is more commonly associated with an electoral alliance. As far as the general elections are concerned, our party along with the Left will fight elections together and may have some understanding with some of the regional parties at states level.

How do you look at Narendra Modi emerging as a prime ministerial candidate?

If the BJP decides to project Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, it will be a clear message that it is going ahead with its hardcore Hindutva agenda. It is becoming evident that big businesses are backing Mr Modi. This form of Hindutva and big business support is a form of insipient fascism. That is the meaning of the Gujarat model of development, where the Muslims have been beaten down to the status of second-class citizens.

‘Being an opportunist party, the Trinamul can align with anyone’ | The Asian Age

April 6, 2013

Sudipta’s death a small, petty incident, says Mamata - The Hindu

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee kicked up a storm during her brief visit to Bangalore on Thursday when she termed the death of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) leader Sudipta Gupta a “small, petty” matter. 
“It is a small and petty matter. It was an accident, there was no police atrocity. You can see the post-mortem report,” she told television reporters after landing at the Bengaluru International Airport. 
She was visiting the city to call on veteran singer Manna Dey to confer him West Bengal’s ‘Vishes Sangeet Mahasamman’ Award.
This, she did, in the midst of black flag protests by SFI activists not very far from Mr. Dey’s residence in HRBR Layout. 
However, her touch-and-go visit happened before the protestors reached the spot. 
The demonstrations were held at least three kilometres away from Mr. Dey’s residence much later.

Sudipta’s death a small, petty incident, says Mamata - The Hindu

Kow caught in cow belt

Kow caught in cow belt

April 4, 2013

I’m not a beggar, Sudipta’s father tells Mamata

Turning down West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s offer of help, the family of an SFI leader, who was allegedly beaten to death by the police while in custody, on Wednesday took exception to her remarks on the incident.
“You [Ms, Banerjee] should not tempt me with money … I am not a beggar. I will not accept anything,” said Pranab Kumar Gupta, father of Sudipta Gupta, leader of the Students Federation of India — student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
“Is this justice? … Can you bring my son back?” the inconsolable retired government employee asked here.
Earlier in the day, Ms Banerjee during her visit to the state-run SSKM Hospital in the city, where the body was kept, said the government was ready to offer all possible assistance to Sudipta’s family.

I’m not a beggar, Sudipta’s father tells Mamata - The Hindu

Who will listen now to my violin, asks Sudipto Gupta`s father

Kolkata: His violin has not fallen silent, but 63-year-old Pranab Gupta has lost his most ardent fan, his student-activist son Sudipto Gupta, who would often stand by the bedside listening to the melodious tunes.

"He would come beside the bed and stand motionless listening to my violin. He used to say that my music was an inspiration for him. Who will now listen to my violin," asks Gupta who Tuesday lost his only son Sudipto Gupta allegedly to police beating in the metropolis after his arrest for taking part in a protest.

However, the police have claimed that the activist of the Students Federation of India, the students' wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), died after he crashed into a lamp post while being taken to jail.

Inconsolable at the loss, the retired government employee feels empty, helpless.....SEE MORE IN....
Who will listen now to my violin, asks Sudipto Gupta`s father

Massive crowds bid tearful farewell to SFI leader - The Hindu

Massive crowds bid tearful farewell to SFI leader - The Hindu